The shadow cast by the liquidation of Bury football club will stretch far beyond the autumn of 2019.
For over 125 years, the one thing most people would have known about Bury was that it hosted a football club.
Each Saturday, the name of Bury FC was roll-called by James Alexander Gordon in the incredibly popular classified results service on TV and radio.
Bury FC was typical of the many football clubs clustered around the urban centres of the industrial north-west, early 20th century glamour fading as time marched on until its eventual demise last month.
It’s probably fair to say Bury was always a bit of a ‘Cinderella’ club – having never won the League Championship – though its main claim to fame is a record winning FA Cup Final score of 6-0.
Yep, you guessed it, in the 1903 final didn’t Bury just go and beat Derby County by six goals in front of 63,000 fans?
Its loss though is much more than a sporting story.
It’s a tale of the times, one that impacts on sense of place and identity – so much so that the local council is currently considering buying the club and bringing it back to life.
Truth is that identity and perception of place count as much as the reality.
Decisions are taken on easy narratives - is a place on the up, is it stagnant, or is it in decline? Bury is in the national headlines but will it lead to a perception of decline and investors turning away?
If there is one thing I’ve learnt in my time working in inward investment at Marketing Derby, it’s that all investment decisions are a combination of the emotional and the rational.
In fact, I’d go further and argue that most investments I’ve seen are in truth emotional decisions wrapped in rational packaging.
Yes, the numbers need to add up but what differentiates place A from place B can often be feeling, an intuition if you like, that nudges a decision to invest over the line.
Reputation counts. A good example would be a dramatic full page advert I saw last week in the Financial Times, simply headed ‘Hong Kong’.
A striking visual of that iconic skyline supported by a text, the purpose of which, was to address concerns about the current violence and unrest in an attempt to reassure investors that positive fundamentals remain and Hong Kong will ‘bounce back’.
A decision to hit the international press with full-page spreads is not taken lightly but it does show the value given to influencing perception of place.
I’ve seen the narrative in Derby evolve from that of a first phase of seeking developer interest for our plans, to a second of land assembly, project design and submission of planning to finally seeking investment to deliver that project.
Let me illustrate that with three large city living schemes in DE1.
The Nightingale Quarter residential scheme for 800 units on the old DRI hospital site – promoted by developer Wavensmere Homes - has completed all three of these phases and work on site is imminent. Within a couple of years, people will be living there in an attractive urban village adjacent to the train station.
The dramatic 17-storey Landmark building on the city’s north riverside – promoted by Godwin Developments – has completed the first two phases and is now seeking funding for a 2020 start for its 201 apartments.
The £200m Becketwell scheme – promoted by Leeds-based St James Securities – has completed the first phase and has now started its planning journey. This ambitious scheme will deliver 342 Build-to-Rent apartments on the site vacated by Debenhams 12-years ago.
Taken together, these three schemes deliver over 1,343 much needed homes in the city centre with an eventual development value of almost £500m.
Marketing Derby has worked with our business Bondholders to support these schemes through the planning process and this will continue with the 19-storey Becketwell scheme (to be called One on the Square).
Developments like this are absolutely essential for that part of the city as last week’s PWC survey showing Derby as having the greatest number of retail closures in the region show.
The City Council and partners - including the Business Improvement Districts, intu and Marketing Derby - have been successful in being shortlisted for the government’s Future High Streets Fund.
A recent walk around really brought the importance of this home to me and the latest news on the closure of Bennett’s – the world’s oldest department store – doesn’t help.
Yes, perception counts but the best way to shape that is change the reality. A city that lost its central residential offer decades ago is rediscovering its mojo by providing genuine options for the many people seeking that choice.
In our submission supporting the Becketwell application, we will make it clear that there is no plan B. The site has been derelict for 30-years and if this development isn’t taken forward the area faces further decades of decline.
Which brings me back to Bury.
Last week, I had a good walk through central Manchester, a place which when I first visited it in the late 1970s seemed all but abandoned.
In contrast the cranes and urgent construction activity of Manchester today projects an ambition and confidence that is contagious. People and companies are locating in their thousands. Investors clamour to join the party.
And yet, which destination did I see on the front of one of the city ubiquitous yellow trams?
Yep, that of Bury, where perception has bumped into a hard reality and one that I really hope can be successfully overcome, despite smashing us 6-0 back in the day!